The holiday season is one of the busiest online shopping times of the year. It’s when you want to splurge on yourself and buy something special for family and friends. Online shopping offers many conveniences and it’s there exists the biggest threats to your financial safety. Online criminals are lurking during the holidays. Even so, you can stay safe online and enjoy your holiday shopping by taking these precautions.

Following these tips can help keep your identity and financial accounts safe from scammers and prying eyes:  

1 – Secure your Smartphone, it’s likely one of the devices you’ll be using to make online purchases

Before you let a friend, family member, or stranger borrow your phone, ensure you’ve logged out of every program and website. It’s easy for someone to steal your identity online by using your logged-in credentials.

You may want to download and set up apps that lock your phone if it’s lost or stolen. There are also password keeper apps which you can use to recall your password and log into the websites and apps where you do your online shopping. So, you won’t have to worry about remembering multiple passwords or be tempted to remain logged into sites. These apps can prevent thieves from stealing your information. Search your favorite app store for security apps designed for your phone.

2 – Watch out for fake shopping websites and emails

Fake websites and emails can steal your personal information before you even realize that the website isn’t real.

Verify every website you use to do your online shopping. Scammers are professionals too. They know how to make their websites appear legitimate. Pay attention to the URL field if you’re visiting a website for the first time.

If you notice red lines and anything unusual, chances are, the website is a fake. Secure websites have a padlock and https before their names. Ensure the websites you use are secure and have security certificates that are up to date. Secure sites encrypt your personal financial information to help keep it safe.

Be alert when you click on any links in your email. These links may be scams created to harvest your personal data. The rule of thumb is to never click on the links when you don’t know the sender or didn’t request for the information.

3 – Pay attention to your accounts

Identity thieves have learned smaller transactions online, may go unnoticed. These small transactions also verify active accounts. If these small transactions are overlooked, thieves go on to steal even more. Monitor all of your online accounts. If you notice any suspicious transactions, call your bank or the merchant that holds the account immediately. It’s that simple.

4 – Avoid public computers and unsecured Wi-Fi networks. It’s safer to shop online during the holidays at home on your personal devices

You may not be able to tell if a public computer or network has been hacked by identity thieves. Your personal information may easily get stolen when you’re shopping over those free Wi-Fi networks. They may have set up key logging software that can capture every bit of information you type. They may have also infected the machines with malware or viruses to steal your data.

5 – Avoid using your debit card

It’s safer to use a credit card for shopping online. Credit cards have stronger safety and consumer protection measures than debit cards. If a thief gets hold of your debit card number, they can drain your bank account in minutes, yet it can take days, weeks, or months for your bank to replace your lost funds. The burden of proof is on you when it comes to disputing fraudulent transactions that appear on your debit card. It’s a nightmare. On the other hand, with a credit card, they run up your balances, but the fraudulent charges are taken off when you report them right away.

6 – Pay attention to the privacy policies

Legitimate websites have privacy policies that state they protect your financial information. If you’re using a website to shop during the holidays and don’t see any type of privacy policy, then it may be a sign of a scam.

7 – Print your online receipts or save them

Saving all your receipts enables you to keep track of your purchases. You can compare these receipts to any charges you don’t recognize on your accounts.

8 – Be careful on social media

Your social media friends may share amazing deals during the holiday shopping season. It’s smart to check these deals out ahead of time with your friends to ensure they recommended those deals to you. Scammer can steal your friends’ information and create duplicate accounts to target unsuspecting people. You should get suspicious if your friends who have not been in the habit of recommending products are all of a sudden sending gift ideas to you.

You can shop online safely and protect your identity at the same time. The holidays season are made to spread joy and good will. Learn how to protect against those who want to wreck your finances. Stay safe as you browse for gifts and enjoy the holiday season.

Bermann Francois

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